Anyone who has shared their life with rats before will be familiar with the feeling of GMR, if not the acronym. There are times when we only need to look at pictures of cute rat kittens, or vulnerable aging rescues to feel those familiar pangs… we need to get more rats. For most people this is a passing (often recurring) feeling that is then overcome by our rational mind. But for some the compulsion to rescue, or to have more kittens defeats any arguments our mind might raise. GMR might catch us unawares if we come face to face with a rat in need of a new home. And often without much consideration we head home with our new companions in tow.
What drives GMR?
Anyone who has planned and waited for new kittens from a breeder, or successfully applied to rehome a rescue rat will understand the excitement and pleasure involved in making room for and welcoming a new rat into your life. Rats are a compulsion in many ways. They have such an extraordinary impact on our lives that something in us may always be ‘looking out for’ just one more rattie relationship. Or GMR may simply be born out of a desire to help rats in need. Sometimes the challenge of working with a difficult rat, or loving a hurting rat is what compels us. As companion animals who give as much to their humans as they receive back, our rats surely do fulfil some kind of need in us to care and be cared for in return. Or we may simply be in love with the passion and joy of living that defines rat-ness. And surely you can’t really have too much of a good thing.
Making good choices
All of us have probably homed a rat on impulse at some time or another, and as a one off this is rarely a problem. However, gathering rats without consideration of our own circumstances and resources can pose many problems. Just consider how many rats are forced into being rehomed because a landlord threatens eviction, or circumstances change and lack of time or money becomes an issue.
One of the best protections against impulsive or compulsive GMR is a realistic consideration of one’s own circumstances in the cold light of day. Once made, a decision about how many rats it is sensible for me – as an individual – to own is fairly easy to stick to. Take time to consider and draw conclusions on all of the factors that might affect your ability to care for any new rats in the present, and throughout their lives. Some of these factors are:
- Housing – is my landlord aware of my rats and has he placed any restrictions on the number of rats or cages that I can have?
- Financial resources – can I afford appropriate equipment, bedding, diet, toys and veterinary care?
- Time – how much time am I able (and willing) to give to caring for and interacting with my rats?
- Cages – how many cages do I have room for, can I keep clean, can I replace as necessary?
- Groups – how many groups of rats can I manage in view of them having to have time out of the cage independently of each other?
- Intimacy – how many rats can I realistically have an intimate relationship with and how much does this matter to me? To them?
- Future – am I likely to be able to provide for any new rats needs for the next 2 to 3 years? Are my circumstances likely to change?
Answering the question about how many rats is right for you is difficult and requires thought and the consideration of many factors. The answer may vary greatly from individual to individual. But once you have decided upon a number stick to it. Knowing your limitations will help you to resist GMR. Perhaps the most important question is – can I meet all of the needs of all of the rats I own? Not just their practical and medical needs, but their need for stimulation, challenge, interaction and attention. Will having more reduce my relationship with the rats I already have? Having too many rats can happen to anyone from pet owners with one cage, to breeders to rescues. As soon as you are not providing optimum care/space/interaction/time out of the cage you probably have too many.
Maximum capacity is not a requirement
Many people will settle for having one cage of rats, will stick the dimensions into a cage calculator and then always run the cage at maximum capacity. Just because you can have 8 rats doesn’t mean that 8 will be right for you. If you have 4 in a cage that will hold 8 rats the 4 simply benefit from having extra space. And you are unlikely to have to clean out quite so often. Having a colony of 3 is not the same as having a colony of 9 even if they live in the same cage.
Actively GMRing people
GMR is also used in terms of pressures applied on others to take in more rats. People are said to be GMRing others when they wave cute available rats in front of individuals they know might be susceptible to their charms. This is not generally the best way to find the right homes for rats, since impulse GMR (especially if someone is prone to it) can quickly lead to a person owning too many rats for their circumstances.
GMR – a strange concept
GMR is spoken of so often in rattie circles that it seems a normal part of life for those who share their lives with rats. Stop to think for a minute about the concept itself. It’s not the way that we would behave in any other area of life that involves relationship… you wouldn’t feel a compulsion to ‘get more friends’, ‘get more dogs’, ‘get more boyfriends’, though I suppose the desire to ‘collect’ all manner of things is common to many humans. Getting more rats should be a well thought through process, not an impulsive or compulsive decision.
Author: Alison Campbell